On our way to Tewkesbury, we stopped over at Letocetum, which is one place I had meant to go visit, but had never gotten round to it.
Also known as “Wall Roman Site”, it is close to the city of Lichfield and it was an important military staging post, and posting station near the Roman military road to North Wales, and Icknield (or Ryknild) Street. Ryknield street is actually Watling Street, (the old A5), The road we parked on was the old A5. It has been double carriageway’d in the meantime and to make it a double carriageway it was diverted. The A5/Watling Street had a bend just to the east of Letocetum. Ryknield Street itself is in Lichfield, and would have extended towards Watling Street and formed a junction with it roughly at the point of that bend in Watling Street as mentioned above.
Like at so many other Roman sites scattered around Britain, there is a legacy of architecture and ruins left for us to ponder over. Although in the case of Letocetum, there is probably more not seen than what is visible.
Realistically these are merely foundations, although it is relatively easy to deduce the what the ruins may have been part of because if anything the Romans were predictable, they liked their comfort, they enjoyed their baths and they built to last. Two major structures were at this site, the Mansio and the bath complex. The bath complex is the building with the courtyard, it would have had a change room, heated room, an exercise area and probably a cold room, and a place where you could get a quick massage or possibly a meal while talking business with a friend.
The Mansio (or hotel) is the building across from the bath and it was where travelling officials or visitors could stay. (For a quick bath just go over the road).
This was a thriving community back then, a fort having been established close by in AD50 and probably abandoned near the end of the 3rd century; the bath-house and mansio being destroyed by fire.
It is strange to consider this small piece of Rome so far inland, the closest beach to Lichfield is over 70 miles away, and it must have been quite a journey to get here, especially in the days before highways, railways and modern vehicles. I am sure the Roman in transit must have welcomed this small haven in a country that was not always as friendly towards them as they would have liked.
And while we were there, a child was attempting to do cartwheels on the grass, and I could not help but wonder if so many centuries before a Roman child was doing the same thing? That is the problem with ruins like this, it is hard to imagine them as being real places with real people living in them.
DRW © 2015-2022. Images migrated 30/04/2016. Some images were taken from the information boards at the site.